LeBron James isn’t coming to the Trail Blazers. He’s not even going to consider playing in Portland. He only needs to make one appearance per year at Nike’s Beaverton headquarters. The Blazers don’t have cap space anyway.
(There’s no such thing as too much reverse psychology, right?)
And, really, that’s entirely appropriate, because LeBron’s been ripping out Blazers’ fans’ hearts for 15 years. In contrast to Kobe Bryant, who was generated fan vitriol mostly for being an inauthentic Hollywood fraud, LeBron has done more than enough on the court to become public enemy No. 1 in the Rose City.
James seems to almost delight in smashing the Blazers in the closing minutes of games, stringing together an unparalleled resume of gut punches, and reminding BlazerManiacs that our team isn’t quite elite. It’s infuriating.
LeBron Rubbing It In, Even When He’s Not Playing
My most painful LeBron memory actually comes from a game he didn’t even play in. It was December, 2013 and the Blazers were in the midst of the too-good-to-be-true 54-win season. The Heat were coming to town, and I had never seen LeBron in person so buying tickets was a no-brainer.
But the supposed chosen one pulled a Sam Bowie and strained a groin during warm-ups, ending up in street clothes for the game. That’s a good thing, right? Easy Blazers win? Not when “Portland played with a temperament befitting a college student informed that his final exam had been postponed” (we miss you on media row, Ben!).
The Blazers’ complacency opened the door for Chris Bosh to hit a game winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds:
(Note: If random regular season game in December is one of the “great game winners” in team history you have a weak history of game winners. I’m not bitter.)
The loss was bad enough, but something about LeBron rushing the court to celebrate despite NOT PLAYING really rubbed me the wrong way. You’re the odds-on favorites to win it all! Act like it! And you’re still celebrating during the post-game interview?! Give me a break.
I left the arena enraged. It was bad enough the Blazers lost, but they lost against a team without its MVP and then that MVP celebrated like he scored 50. It was a painful reminder that despite the miraculously hot start to the 2013-14 season, the Blazers still had a long way to go.
Mocking the Portland Crowd
Dec. 28, 2013 wasn’t the only time James openly ridiculed the Rose Garden faithful. Nearly three years earlier some courtside Blazers fans trash talked LeBron a little bit too much in the first half, Nic Batum blocked a James lay-up, and things were looking good when the Blazers forced overtime. But then James turned the tables on the first half agitations and literally told Portland to “kiss my ass”:
Winning is one thing, but openly mocking the fans in a game that you should win?! That’s just classless. (I’m still bitter.)
As every Blazers fan knows, Brandon Roy was really damn good. He, arguably, hit his peak in the early months of 2010 before the knee injuries shut him down in the latter part of that season.
All of his skill was on display on Jan. 8 when he torched Kobe Bryant for 32 points on 11 shots. Kobe also scored 32 points, but needed 37(!!) shots to get there and the Blazers won easily, leading by as many as 20 in the fourth quarter. BRoy even earned a mention on True Hoop the next morning. There’s a reason Ron Artest, who covered Roy at times in this game, had called Brandon the best offensive player in the NBA in April, 2009.
Roy and the Blazers were flying high when LeBron came to town the next night. But it just didn’t matter:
Brandon scored 34, but LeBron bested him with 41 and the Cavs cruised to an easy win. It sucked. You couldn’t avoid the feeling that the Blazers were helpless against LeBron. And this game was on ESPN! BRoy never loses on national TV! Sigh.
Game Winning Lay-Ups
That’s not the only time the Blazers looked helpless against LeBron. In 2008 he scored 17 in the fourth quarter and blew past multiple Blazers defenders to hit a game winning lay-up.
Again, this was national TV, in a clutch situation. Brandon Roy is supposed to win these games! Not someone else! And yet LeBron prevailed with ease — it was so bad it felt inevitable. Ugh. (I won’t embed the other, more recent, blow-by game winner.)
You Owe Us LeBron
Nobody since Larry Bird has enjoyed being cruel to Blazers fans as much as LeBron James. He’s been tormenting us since the Qyntel Woods era and has served as a constant reminder that he can always outplay Portland’s best players when he wants to and, most annoyingly, make it look easy in the process.
After all this agony, James owes Portland a break. The franchise doesn’t have the cap space, or the huge market, or the celebrities, or the weather, but, at this point, it’s inarguably the morally correct thing to do. Come to the Blazers, LeBron.